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While CD (and to an lesser extend DVD) disks have reached the price-point of the floppy, they have one significant downside, it is WORM (Write-Once Read-Many) media, allowing it to be used only one single time, and you need to be explicit in writing the data to the actual media (you need to burn it.)

While CD-RW solves the "use only once" problem, it is still EWORM (Erasable Write-Once Read-Many) media, which still means you need to be explicit in writing the data to the actual media (you still need to burn it.), and also, you still need to be very explicit in erasing it. (simple delete is not possible.)

Okay, we can use a CD-RW in Packet Writing mode, however the downside to that, is that this mode is not very universal, and also, not the native mode of the media.

Now, while USB-sticks and SD-cards may not have the poblems of the CD, they have a whole other kind of problem: their PRICE! USB-sticks and SD cards are generally 10 to 100 times as expensive as diskettes per piece.

SD-cards, in addition have an added problem, because they need a reader to operate. While it is a very standard thing, it is not default equipment on the computer like the CD drive or USB port (or historically the diskette drive).

You wouldn't give out an USB stick or SD card with a 100 kB text file, not caring weither you would get it back or not.

So, to recap:

  • CD & DVD are basically WORM media.
  • SD cards and USB sticks are relatively expensive.
  • SD cards also needs special readers.
  • Diskettes have a very low data-rate
  • Diskettes have a very low storage capacity.

Now, is there a media out there that solves all these problems, or is there a way to get (very) small USB sticks or SD cards for a very low price (as they're the closest thing to diskette).

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USB Sticks have much more storage space, and are much faster. And compared to the price of floppies when I started, are not expensive. (£30, $50, for a box of 10 was usual.) – Richard Apr 30 '10 at 17:38
If you’re concerned about not getting your 100 kB text file back: Why not print it? promises to decode 200 kB on one A4 page. You could then just use the copy machine to multiply. – Debilski Jun 10 '10 at 0:42
Wait, a CW with a bounty? Is that even possible? – MDMarra Jun 10 '10 at 2:44
@MarkM Unusual, but possible.… – Stephen Jennings Jun 10 '10 at 4:19
up vote 20 down vote accepted

The Internet.

  • Can read/write any number of times
  • Every computer I've seen in the past five years has either Wi-Fi built-in, or is a big workstation/server that's parked somewhere with a gigabit-or-better Ethernet cable sticking out the back
  • There's no limit to how much data you can put on the Internet
  • The data-rate limit of the Internet basically comes down to how much you want to pay, but even a consumer home Internet connection is enough to play realtime HD video already
  • It's as ubiquitous today as the floppy was 15 years ago, and nothing else is

It even solves some problems that floppies had:

  • It's easy to share with almost any number of people simultaneously, while you had to make one floppy for each person.
  • There are collaboration tools for many types of documents, so instead of "save, sneakernet, load, edit, save, sneakernet, manual merge", you can often just have multiple people editing the actual data
  • It takes up no space (I suppose technically the network adapter takes up some tiny amount of space, but your computer wouldn't be noticeably smaller or lighter without it).
  • It's useful for a lot of things other than just a small transfer of data between people at nearby different computers (AFAIK, nobody ever wrote something like that worked by passing floppies)
  • You know right away if a transfer succeeded (and it almost always does), instead of sending a floppy through the mail and finding out later that it doesn't work.
  • You don't have to worry about someone not being able to read the low-level format, filesystem, etc. with their particular model of floppy drive and version of OS, and there are even open-source programs to read almost any file format around.
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I'd upvote an hundred times at least, if I could. – dag729 Apr 30 '10 at 17:44
Amen. Flash drives for stuff you want to keep with you, and for the argument of being able to give away floppies cheaply, if the file is small enough to fit on a floppy (1.44 MB) you can email it to them or use dropbox or post it on a network share or any of a number of other things. No need for floppies. – nhinkle Jun 10 '10 at 0:31
You cannot boot an OS from the Internet (in any "normal" way). – Rook Jun 12 '10 at 13:34
Idigas: True, but that hasn't exactly been true of floppies for a while, anyway. I don't think I've seen an OS on floppies in 10 years (Win98/MacSys7). For rescuing an unbootable system, external hard drives and bootable CD/DVDs had been more common, even in the early 2000's when we still had floppies. – Ken Jun 14 '10 at 18:47

There is a fallacy in your argument. You are comparing per piece prices when you should really be comparing price/MB. For example, a 1.44 MB floppy disk at Staples is $6.49/box of 10 or $0.45/MB. A spindle of CD-R (50 pieces) is 39.99/spindle or about 1/10 of a cent per MB. A 2 GB thumb drive is currently $12.99/piece or about 7/10 of a cent per MB. In reality the floppy disk is the more expensive storage solution.

The nice thing about the thumb drive is that differences in head placement or positioning will not effect the read operation. Those of us who have been around for a while will remember that one machine where the heads were just a bit off and would never read a floppy formatted on a different machine.

All price data from as of April 30, 2010.

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I like your argument. Having worked on workstation deployments, it's often essential that each tech have a "floppy disk" equivalent in case there's a network issue. A thumb drive is perfect in this sneakernet scenario. The downside to your argument though is in the case of "giving someone a floppy"... with the actual floppy, though the price per meg is much higher, the price per unit is much lower. Compare $0.65 for the floppy vs. $12.99 for the thumb drive. Still +1 though :) – ggutenberg Apr 30 '10 at 18:16
@dosboy: Thanks. I hadn't thought about the need of "giving someone a floppy." I utilize the Thumb Drive method of sneakernetting when necessary. – Sarge Apr 30 '10 at 20:12

As Ken was so elegant in saying, the next floppy is the Internet. Sending files as attachments in emails is a start. Google Docs and windows sky drive expand on this idea. Zero cost, and you don't even have to be in person to exchange the data. You can share the data with just the people you want to have access or you can share the data with everyone. These services also can store quite a bit more than any floppy that I've seen.

If you don't like the Internet idea... another solution is your phone. Most phones now days can do blue tooth file transfers. Load your phone up with whatever files you want to share, meet up with the person you want to share them with, and you can transfer them over. My phone uses a simple usb cable and behaves a lot like a USB stick so it makes it easy to load it up. My android phone can do this, and I've heard that blackberries can do this too. Most phones probably can.

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